© 2018

La Mamma

Interrogating a National Stereotype

  • Penelope Morris
  • Perry Willson

Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)

About this book


The idea of the “mamma italiana” is one of the most widespread and recognizable stereotypes in perceptions of Italian national character both within and beyond Italy. This figure makes frequent appearances in jokes and other forms of popular culture, but it has also been seen as shaping the lived experience of modern-day Italians of both sexes, as well as influencing perceptions of Italy in the wider world. This interdisciplinary collection examines the invented tradition of mammismo but also contextualizes it by discussing other, often contrasting, ways in which the role of mothers, and the mother-son relationship, have been understood and represented in culture and society over the last century and a half, both in Italy and in its diaspora.


cultural theory culture Europe film film history gender history history of literature Italy literary theory literature social science sociology twentieth century motherhood

Editors and affiliations

  • Penelope Morris
    • 1
  • Perry Willson
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Modern Languages and CulturesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.School of Humanities - HistoryUniversity of DundeeDundeeUnited Kingdom

About the editors

Penelope Morris is Senior Lecturer in Italian in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Her previous publications include Giovanna Zangrandi: una vita in romanzo (2001); (ed.) Women in Italy 1945-1960 (Palgrave, 2006) and, with Francesco Ricatti and Mark Seymour, (co-ed.) Politica ed emozioni nella storia d’Italia dal 1848 ad oggi (2012).

Perry Willson is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Dundee, Scotland, UK. Her previous publications include Women in Twentieth-Century Italy (Palgrave, 2010); Peasant Women and Politics in Fascist Italy: the Massaie Rurali (2002) and The Clockwork Factory: Women and Work in Fascist Italy (1993).

Bibliographic information


“The book is essential reading for anyone interested in modern Italy, and in motherhood or gender more broadly; it complements recent work on the representation of mothers and motherhood in Italian culture by providing a very wide-ranging and thorough analysis and critique of the historical and cultural dynamics that underpin Italy’s postwar preoccupations with gender and family.” (Danielle Hipkins, Italian American Review, Vol. 10 (2), 2020)